When it comes to fantasy playoff hockey pools, it’s important to keep in mind that games played are a paramount to success. Figuring out which teams are not likely to make it past the second round whittles down the pool significantly.
Whether fantasy owners want to “believe” in the predictive value of possession metrics or not, they are extremely useful when figuring out which teams can make a deep playoff run. Seven of the last 10 Stanley Cup finalists were top-10 in five-on-five shot attempt percentage, which is measured by the number of shot attempts a team controls relative to all shot attempts. None of the 10 teams were outside the top-15, either.
For the above reason, I will exclude players from teams like Anaheim, Ottawa, Minnesota, the New York Rangers, Vancouver, Montreal, and Calgary, all of which did not crack the top-15.
That leaves nine teams to choose a number one pick from. Remember, when draft time comes, it’s crucial to pick players from teams that can reach at least their Conference Final. Here is the player I believe should be the top draft pick off the board.
Vladimir Tarasenko (St. Louis Blues)
Tarasenko missed a few games down the stretch but is returning for the last game of the season against Minnesota. According to St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, Tarasenko could have returned earlier but there was no need to push him.
Here are the reasons why I like Tarasenko as the top pick.
I see the Eastern Conference as wide open. If either Tampa Bay, the New York Islanders, Detroit, or Washington get to the Cup Final, I would not be surprised. In the West, I don’t see any contenders in the Pacific Division advancing far, and with St. Louis having wrapped up their division, it won’t have to play the likes of Nashville or Chicago until at least the second round.
St. Louis was a top-five power-play team all season, both in terms of efficiency and total goals scored. While five-on-five play drives wins, special teams can pick up a team when the even strength scoring dries up. Tarasenko was second among Blues forwards in average time on ice per game on the power play.
Tarasenko’s line has typically played behind David Backes’s line in terms of competition. That frees up the Tarasenko line to do damage against the depth lines from opponents.
Tarasenko was 14th in NHL scoring heading into Saturday, and eighth in goals. Given his team, his role, and his skills, I wouldn’t hesitate drafting Vladimir Tarasenko first overall in playoff drafts.
Steven Stamkos – Tampa Bay Lightning
John Tavares – New York Islanders
Jonathan Toews – Chicago Blackhawks
*Some stats courtesy of Hockey Analysis, Hockey Reference, Behind The Net, and War On Ice.